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3/26/2008
01:26 PM
John Soat
John Soat
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Recession And IT Attitude

It's part of a CIO's job to keep things positive in the IT organization. How are your IT colleagues holding up under the pressure of economic uncertainty?

It's part of a CIO's job to keep things positive in the IT organization. How are your IT colleagues holding up under the pressure of economic uncertainty?In a feature story this week that I wrote with my colleague Marianne Kolbasuk McGee, CIOs and IT managers shared with us their plans to deal with the slowdown in the U.S. economy. As research for the story, InformationWeek conducted an online survey, and some of the most interesting results came from respondents who said they'd already been asked to cut IT spending in some form or another. A blog I wrote about those results generated some interesting comments, especially a debate over whether there's actually a slowdown in IT hiring.

Another interesting aspect to that online survey was the attitudes expressed by the respondents in regard to the current economic climate. Here's how they describe the mood these days in their IT organizations (to see the complete results of our online survey, in chart form, go here):

Despite the economic uncertainty, 53% of survey respondents say the mood in their business technology organizations is "cautiously optimistic." Almost one-quarter, though, describe that mood as "fear and loathing," and anecdotally it seems to vary based on people's location, industry, and whether they've weathered downturns before, including the recession of the early 2000s.

Some commentators to this blog have made the point that recession may be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: talk about it, worry about it, raise enough fear and anxiety over it, and recession will inevitably be the result. There's a certain validity to that point of view. For that reason, it's good to see that most (53%) respondents to our survey hold a cautiously optimistic outlook, while 22% are unconcerned, and 1% are actually still bullish on the economy.

But when almost one quarter (24%) express fear and loathing about our economic situation, that's a problem. That's because IT dysfunction also can be a self-fulfilling prophecy: if colleagues are unhappy, restless, worried, and/or preoccupied, it doesn't make for a well-performing team. IT dysfunction and reputation can get joined in a death spiral that's hard to pull out of.

And whose responsibility is it to reassure those colleagues that the work they're doing is worthwhile and fruitful? The CIO's. It's not productive, or fair, for the CIO to hold onto the idea that the economy has made IT professionals basically captive to the jobs they're in and therefore not in need of encouragement or praise. Also, straight talk from the CIO about your company's situation goes a long way toward easing anxiety, no matter what the situation is.

I'm not suggesting CIOs should become cheerleaders. But then again, a little rah-rah never hurt anybody.

What's the attitude in your IT organization? And is the CIO helping or hurting?

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